Officials in the Milford School District answered questions and gave updates Monday night about the progress of the district’s literacy plan.
Kelly Carvajal Hageman, Milford’s chief academic officer, pointed out in the district’s monthly board meeting that Gov. John Carney and Education Secretary Mark Holodick have urged the state in the past two years to focus on literacy.
A 2022 law mandated that by the 2027-28 school year districts and charters would be required to create a curriculum from a state-curated list to make sure all reading teachers are trained to teach lessons rooted in the science of reading.
“Milford is very far ahead of the curve because we have a very robust literacy professional learning plan in action for our schools that has been started this year,” she said.
The science of reading stems from brain research that shows how students learn to read.
It has six essential components: phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, text comprehension and oral language.
Hageman said the literacy plan was build with four goals:
- Strengthen all components of Tier I literacy instruction K-5 to include rigorous grade level access to all students in all settings.
- Develop the school reading specialist role into a literacy coach, enabling them to lead the literacy teams in their respective schools, coach teachers on all components of Bookworms instruction and facilitate data analysis meetings.
- Integrate Multilingual Learner Services and Literacy Services in K-5.
- Create School Literacy Teams with reading support paraprofessionals, multilingual teachers and paras, and reading specialists.
“What I’d like to see is that [the plan] is really data driven and collaborative in the decision-making so that every single student is accounted for and that we know where their gaps are and that we work together to close those gaps,” Hageman said.
Most of the attention the state has paid towards literacy focuses on the early development of a child, specifically between kindergarten and third grade.
Many legislators and educational advocates repeat the mantra that from kindergarten to third grade, students learn to read, and after that, students read to learn.
Research has shown that developing literacy skills becomes exceptionally harder after the third grade.
Milford has integrated Bookworms, a curriculum that is aligned with the science of reading.
The principals of Banneker Elementary and Mispillion Elementary – Chad Luzier and Jodi Messick, respectively – told the school board that the adoption of the literacy plans at their school have been successful thus far.
Luzier highlighted the importance of professional development, stating that his school has ensured that the teachers had the updated and appropriate resources, and made sure novice teachers had an understanding of the new materials.
The collaboration of reading specialists, multi language specialists, curriculum coaches and teachers has been vital to the success, he said.
“We have roughly 13 staff members with three or less years of experience,” Messick said. “Those are teachers who were just sort of thrown into the classroom, given Bookworms and some coaching along the way over the last couple of years, but my main focus was to provide those teachers with a level of support so that they feel comfortable delivering the Bookworms instruction to the students.”
Having one-on-one time with Bookworms coaches has been helpful, and the coaches even provide models of lesson plans to teachers.
Board Vice President Matt Bucher said that since the year 2000, there’s been three big pushes in a way to teach children how to read.
“I know that the science of reading, the return to phonics, is the latest,” he said. “It’s my understanding that it’s a return to the way that probably you and I were taught to read. Do you find that that is the kind of process that’s going to give us the results that we want, and is it an improvement over the previous initiative from the Department of Education?”
Hageman said this is the best literacy curriculum that she has ever seen and she believes in it and has seen results in other districts.
Bucher asked if the literacy curriculum would alter or affect the district’s immersion programs, which basically divide the day into classes, half in English, and half in another language.
“It’s only on the English side of the immersion day, so this is not on the Spanish side at all,” Hageman said.
Board members were also curious how success would be measured.
“I evaluate everything that we do by student outcomes, so I believe that our goals will be achieved when there are high levels of students meeting the expectations on our assessments,” Hageman said.
She also said looking at a student’s writing skills is a key.
“Writing is a really strong indicator of a student’s ability to comprehend text,” she said. “When we see strong student writing…we’ll know that we’re on the right track. Long term, we’d like to see an increase in our scores in the summative assessments for Smarter Balanced as well.”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, it was announced that school constables, who are responsible for school safety and climate, would be getting new uniforms in order to offer better visibility and identification.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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